Sunday, January 1, 2012

Taking My Own Advice

"You teach what you need to learn".  I can't credit the originator of that adage, but over and over again, I have found it applicable.  Another adage oft-stated in Yoga classes is "listen to your body", because it definitely communicates, subtly and then not-so, about what "it" needs more or less of.  


In terms of my own Yoga practice, I failed to listen in the past (see earlier posts) and paid the price of pain and limitation.  OK, that lesson learned and now I am tuned into the dialect from my musculoskeletal structure.  


But other systems have been yakking at me for years, maybe for most of the years of my life.  Don't worry---this won't be a litany of my ailments, just an illustration of the point of this post.  Having experienced numerous, seemingly unrelated, distresses in my gut and chronic mysterious rashes, both of which intensified greatly over time, well, let's just say that the volume was turned up so loudly that I finally heard the noise.  


Something was definitely wrong, and I couldn't rationalize or positively think my way beyond the symptoms.  I was healthy, wasn't I?  I did...do...all the right things in terms of diet and exercise and stress management, so how could I have any kind of disease?!  


Yet my symptoms intensified and after many conventional and alternative diagnoses and treatments, some of which only exacerbated my condition, I finally have what I believe is an accurate diagnosis---celiac disease.  


Here's a short definition from the National Institutes of Health:


Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and lip balms.
When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi—the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine. 
Celiac disease is both a disease of malabsorption—meaning nutrients are not absorbed properly—and an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. Celiac disease is genetic, meaning it runs in families.
http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/


If you Google gluten or celiac, you'll find lots of information, just in case you or someone in your family has been suffering from a myriad of inexplicable symptoms or conditions, like IBS, migraines, rashes, fatigue (celiac may be implicated in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome), and much more.  The only treatment for celiac disease is to maintain an entirely gluten-free diet.  Not a mostly gluten-free diet, an ENTIRELY gluten-free diet.  The long-term consequences of continuing to ingest gluten are serious, including several life-threatening illnesses.  


Everyday is a new discovery of how many things we take for granted that I have to now intensely scrutinize.  Aside from obvious things like bread, I am reading the minutely tiny print on product labels on lip balms, ibuprofen (a Yoga teacher's friend), vitamins, and toothpaste (just realized yesterday that the one I use has gluten...so much for eating gluten-free/GF this past month, all negated by the toothpaste!). 


So, once again I say, listen to your body and don't ignore the message.  At this point, I am spending a huge portion of my time adapting my diet, taking way more time to shop and cook for myself, revising my travel and eating out plans (two of my great joys now in question), healing my gut with a regimen of Chinese herbs and an entirely gluten-free diet, and modifying my schedule and lifestyle in order to do all these things and deal with the ongoing symptoms.  No, my symptoms aren't gone, yet, but as I listen and respond to what my body needs, despite the challenges, I am relieved to have an action plan and anticipating wellness.....using that positive thinking I believe in, after all.

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